NOTES AND QUOTES Pennsylvania 500 Pocono International Raceway July 25, 1999 Note: This is the Pontiac Grand Prix's fourth win of the season, the most Pontiac has scored since it won a circuit-leading 11 in 1993. It's Pontiac's 127th win in...
NOTES AND QUOTES Pennsylvania 500 Pocono International Raceway July 25, 1999
Note: This is the Pontiac Grand Prix's fourth win of the season, the most Pontiac has scored since it won a circuit-leading 11 in 1993. It's Pontiac's 127th win in NASCAR Winston Cup Series competition. After 19 races, Pontiac has 23 top-five and 52 top-10 finishes. At the same point last season, Pontiac had only eight top-five and 23 top-10 finishes. Pontiac has 108 points in the manufacturers point standings and has had at least three drivers finish in the top-10 in 12 of 19 races this season. Ford has 135 points and Chevrolet has 118.
BOBBY LABONTE (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Pontiac Grand Prix): "It was pretty strong there at the end. It looked like it. It felt like it. I ran as hard as I could all day long. We were at our best at the end. The tires were right. The adjustments were back and forth all day, but we were right at the end. It was pretty strong there at the end. Up until then, it was still good, but not as good as the last race we were here. I can't explain why (they've won two in a row at Pocono). There's no rhyme or reason to it. Like they're saying about Greg Biffle now, we're in the zone. We're zoned in on one track. We awfully excited to come back here and duplicate what we did. At the end of yesterday we didn't think we were going to be able to do that. We thought we had a top-five race car, but maybe not as good as a few other guys in practice. We worked on it pretty hard today. At different times the car wasn't handling very good. It was slipping and sliding a lot and we were trying to get it where it would handle better. We made adjustments and made it right. It feels good to come back to a race track you won at a month ago and then you win it again."
HOW DID THE WEATHER PLAY INTO YOUR PLANS TODAY? "There at the end, it seemed like my car got better. The adjustments, the track position, the tires and the weather, some of that played into effect to, but I think the cooler conditions seemed to be better for me. I can't explain why. We were slipping and sliding a little earlier and it seemed like the track cooled off and my car stuck better. If it wasn't the weather I'm going to say it is."
WHY DIDN'T YOU RUN THE SAME PONTIAC YOU RAN HERE LAST TIME? "Did you see the New Hampshire race? That was it, up in the wall. It wasn't a pretty picture. I know when I got out of it I was trying to tell them what was wrong with the car and I told Jimmy, 'You think you can get it back by Pocono?' He said, 'I don't think so.' I asked him again on Monday and Tuesday just to make sure. We couldn't get it fixed to come back here.
Days like today make up for days like that, but they don't make up points. At the same time, there's nothing I can do about that now. I can say that we must be OK. We can't make those points up, and I really don't care that Dale Jarrett was second because two weeks ago I was in the wall. I'd rather be finishing first, second or third and if he was first, second or third it really wouldn't matter because at least I was running with them. We didn't do that at New Hampshire, so I'd have to say this is a whole lot better."
TALK ABOUT WINNING TWO POCONO RACES IN SAME SEASON. "You mean Jeff Gordon hasn't done this? Wow. I thought you guys might have missed out on that one. I figured that was something he had already done. It's a lot better now. It's been a great season so far. Two weeks ago at New Hampshire was the down and the pits, but this weekend's the penthouse. All year long we've had good race cars. We've been communicating back and forth. We've been having a lot of fun. It's been great. We've had a great season no matter what happens from tomorrow on. I won't forget that. I've definitely done more than I've ever done now than I've done in a whole season before. It's been a great season, no matter where we finish in points. Week in and week out we've been competitive. We've had chances to win a lot of times and when you're racing for the lead in a lot of races you can't complain about that as competitive as this sport is. I can tell you how tough Pocono is. I've got a lot more experience at having tough days than good days. To have a good day here means a lot, especially when you struggle. Ten years from now if nobody's still done it and Casey Atwood does it, you can tell him I was one of the guys, too. He may not know who I am, but I think that would be great."
WHAT'S THE FEELING WHEN YOU WIN BY NINE SECONDS? "I can tell you it's pretty neat, better than when you've got a guy about a half-second behind you pushing you or like last time here with Gordon. I know people will say, 'Oh, they just didn't show their stuff until the end of the race.' We tried to show everything we had at the beginning, but we just couldn't do it. We worked on it and worked on it and made it right. I wanted to lead laps early in the race, but I couldn't get there because there were too many good cars. I was definitely wearing my tires out trying to get there as fast as I could the last 18-20 laps."
YOU'RE HAVING A CAREER-YEAR. HOW HAS THE SECOND TEAM HELPED? "I hope both of us (he and Stewart) have better career years yet to come in our lives. I'm sure he will and hopefully I will, too. I think it all goes back to Joe Gibbs Racing. We've got a great facility, great race cars, great people, great teammates. Everybody gets along real well. We've got great engines. I think it's an accomplishment on Jimmy's part and he really puts together a lot more than people might think. He's not the crew chief on the 20 car because Greg (Zipadelli) is, but he does see things at the shop. He put the people up and running a year ago and Greg then took over the rest of it. I think it goes back to great people and great personnel at the race shop that produce great race cars that you can win with week in and week out."
DOES IT PUT PRESSURE ON YOU HAVING A HOT-SHOT ROOKIE TEAMMATE? "I'm a veteran, all five years of it, right? I think a lot of times this year, with Tony, a lot of times he doesn't know what he wants, setup-wise because he hasn't driven these cars before. He's driven a lot of cars, but he may not know what it takes to go fast at a certain race. I've only been here a relatively short period of time and I'm programmed to let off here, here and there. He doesn't know, so he lets off further and further and further. He'll go faster and faster and faster and I'm like, 'How did he do that?' If I'm not running good and he's running good, you can eliminate some things. You don't have to question the motor because everything is the same. It does kind of help out, because a lot of times when he's quick we'll think maybe we can change a little bit. It's kind of opened my eyes up, because if you get in a situation where you're kind of stuck, no matter if you run good or bad, it takes longer to get out of it (without a teammate). At the same time, I was on the radio with him today making sure we were both conserving fuel and stuff like, not that I need to tell them, but that's something I want to tell him from an experience point. He can run a little freer setup than I do and I'll think, 'I can't do that.' I'll wreck. Then he does it and I think, 'Maybe we can do it.' We'll try it and sometimes it will work. Not every time, but it helps to have a teammate. I'm glad he's 28 instead of 21."
SURPRISED TO WIN BY SO MUCH? "Yeah. I really was. Earlier in the race, Mike Skinner was awfully strong. Jeff Gordon had a really fast race car. Ward Burton was awfully good and Sterling Marlin was good. Jeff Burton was coming on and Tony was coming on. The 88 car was really good. For a while there, relatively anybody could take the lead. Mark was coming on and they were getting better. Yeah, I was very surprised at the end. On the restart and the 99 car was there for a couple of laps and then he fell off. I got a cushion and the car was so good. I was definitely surprised. If felt like a Formula One race and I was racing the clock."
TONY STEWART (No. 20 Home Depot Pontiac Grand Prix): "Earnhardt and I went after it because we kept getting tied up. He put some good moves on me and I really learned a lot from him. That was the most fun I had racing all day. The car was pretty good. We got a little bit tight there after that last yellow. Considering the trouble we had we were real fortunate to end up where we did today. Track position is everything here. We've still got a lot of work to do before we get to Indianapolis. "With all those lapped cars there, we (Stewart and Earnhardt) kept getting bunched up. I'd get jammed up and he'd get a run and he'd get jammed up and I'd get a run. He raced me clean. He helped me out there and let me go at the end. "Greg Zipadelli and all the guys on the Home Depot team gave me a great race car. I got us a little bit behind when I got tangled up with John Andretti there. We had to go to the back. The way the pit strategy worked out we were going to have to come in no matter what. That hurt us on track position, but we had a great race car today. A fourth-place is the best we've ever run in a Cup race, so I'm not going to complain about a fourth. Like I told them on the last lap, 'It's nice to know when you've got the fastest car on the race track.' We're going to leave here with smiles on our faces."
Note: Rich Bickle charged to his best finish of the season in the Lucky Dog Grand Prix, placing seventh after running as high as second. It's his second top-10 run of the season.
RICH BICKLE (No. 45 Lucky Dog Pontiac Grand Prix): "We had highs and lows. We had some problems and got them cured. Actually, the problem kind of got us track position. We got lucky on pit stop turnarounds. The car really wasn't that bad, a little tight there at the end. Our guys finally got to show what we have here. We've been coming on strong and every week we're getting better and better. We've got some things to improve on yet before we get there, but everyone at least knows that we were here today. We had a drive plate go bad in the left-rear and it was like a ballet fixing it. James (Ince) figured out what was wrong and why it was coming loose. They did a great job. The guys are working their butts off and this shows it. We're still not totally there yet, but by God, we were better than a lot of them today. We went to Indy with a brand new 10-10-345 Pontiac. It was super fast. I'm happy with it."
ERNIE IRVAN (No. 36 M&M's Pontiac Grand Prix): "We were hoping for a top-10 and we finished 11th. That's a little disappointing, but obviously, we had a good run. Some guys had some fresher rubber on like Stewart and Earnhardt and they got by us. We were competitive and that's what you're always looking for."
JOHN ANDRETTI (No. 43 STP Pontiac Grand Prix): "We were going down in there and all of a sudden somebody got up underneath me and got me in the left-rear quarter. At Pocono, you're going so fast it only takes a tap and it turns you around. It hit pretty hard, but I'm OK. We were passing a guy and the person behind me figured there was room underneath me and went down in there and unfortunately, when you get hit in the left rear, you can't do much about it. It's unfortunate. It's tight racing and things happen. It put us out. The Brickyard is coming up so we're looking forward to it. "I've got more anger than anything else. Obviously, I'm all right. I get pretty upset because the guys work hard. It's just tough racing. It's a long race and one corner doesn't mean life and death in Winston Cup, especially that early in the race. Things happen and you get touched and everybody makes mistakes. The car has been great all weekend. We put on a set of tires and the car went was sort of undriveable. We set up according to what the tires did. I wish we had just left it alone because it was pretty much a rocketship all weekend. It was my call and we were trying to work ourselves back to that. By the end of the race, I think we would have gotten that back. It was a brand new car and now it's a no-car. It was one we had tested at Indy and I liked it, but I had another one at Indy I liked even better, so we'll just take it back."
WARD BURTON (No. 22 Caterpillar Pontiac Grand Prix): "We not only need a win, we needed a good, competitive run. We run good every time we come to Pocono. The Caterpillar Pontiac was doing great. The team was doing well. We just can't have any luck. We cut a tire going into the tunnel turn.